Horror Film Review: The Mummy (dir by Alex Kurtzman)


Oh, where to start?

The Mummy was promoted as being the first entry in Universal’s new Dark Universe, a shared cinematic universe that would supposedly do for the classic monsters what the MCU did for super heroes.  (Of course, horror fans with a good memory remember that Dracula Untold was originally supposed to be the first part of the Dark Universe franchise but, after that film bombed with both critics and audiences, Universal announced, “We were just kidding.  The Dark Universe starts with The Mummy.”)  The Mummy was released in June and it got absolutely decimated by critics.  That wasn’t too surprising.  One could tell from the commercials that, even with 2017 being a good year from horror, The Mummy was not going to be a critical favorite.  But then, audiences rejected it as well, throwing the whole future of the Dark Universe franchise into limbo.

To be honest, I think The Mummy could have been a fun little movie if it had only been 90 minutes long and hadn’t gotten bogged down with all that Dark Universe nonsense.  There are a few moments that actually do work, though they are few and far between.  The film stars Tom Cruise, who is a veteran at handling nonsense and who gives a somewhat lighter version of his standard Mission Impossible performance.  Jake Johnson shows up as a talking corpse and he has a way with a sarcastic line.  Some of the special effects are effective, though The Mummy is often far too dependent upon them.

The plot is damn near incoherent and it didn’t take long for me to give up on trying to follow it.  The film started with a bunch of crusaders moving in slow motion and then it jumped forward to modern-day Iraq, where Sgt. Nick (Cruise) and Cpl. Chris (Johnson) uncovered an ancient tomb.  Apparently, opening the tomb unleashes Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is thousands of years old and is still alive because she was cursed to be both immortal and buried alive.  So, now, she’s free and apparently, she wants Nick to merge with Set, the Egyptian god of all things evil.  But Nick doesn’t want to be evil.  He just wants to save the lives of Chris and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), an archeologist who basically has the same role that Natalie Portman had in the first Thor film.

Meanwhile, Russell Crowe is wandering around as Dr. Jekyll.  This is where the whole Dark Universe things kicks.  Dr. Jekyll is in charge of this secret organization that keeps tabs on all the paranormal stuff that’s happening in the world.  However, if Dr. Jekyll doesn’t regularly get his injection, he turns into evil Mr. Hyde.  In this movie, that means that Crowe suddenly starts talking with a cockney accent.  I’m assuming that, much like Samuel L. Jackson did for the MCU, Russell Crowe is meant to link all of the Dark Universe films together.  Of course, the difference is that the early MCU films usually only had Jackson show up at the end of the movie, often in a post-credits scene.  Crowe, on the other hand, pops up out of nowhere, takes over a huge chunk of the film, and then vanishes.  I was already having enough trouble trying to keep up with the Mummy’s schemes without having to deal with a random Mr. Hyde sighting.

The Mummy is a mess.  When it starts, it’s a likable mess, with Cruise and Johnson exchanging silly lines.  But then the movie gets caught up in trying to launch a franchise and it all goes downhill from there.  There’s even a scene where Ahmanet stands in the middle of a London streets and starts throwing cars around.  It’s such an MCU scene that I was surprised Robert Downey, Jr. didn’t come flying by.  If The Mummy had just been a content to be a silly monster movie, it could have been fun.  But instead, The Mummy tried to launch an entire universe and it just wasn’t up to the task.

Quick Review: King Arthur – Legend of the Sword (dir. by Guy Ritchie)


KingArthur-LegendoftheSwordUsually, when I go to the movies, I either eat before I get there, or after the movie is done. This way, I don’t have to get up at all and miss anything. If it’s a film I’ve seen before, I’ll take the weakest part to use as a bathroom / food break, if I have to go. It’s one way I can tell if I like what I’m watching.

I got up twice for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Once to go downstairs and get a popcorn and drink, and a second time for a free refill. I even left my stuff behind in my chair for anyone to take on the second trip out. That’s how low my interest in this film fell after about 30 minutes in. I trusted the fates not to have someone steal my motorcycle jacket (keys, gear and all) to take a break from this film.

This may not be the best review to read about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

The Arthurian Legend has been captured in film a number of times. The Last Legion, First Knight, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Excalibur (my personal favorite), and most recently, Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur starring Clive Owen. There’s nothing wrong with a retelling of the story, but Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is all over the place and feels like it has nothing to do with the legends. This isn’t anything against Ritchie. I own Rock-N-Rolla and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and I loved Snatch. King Arthur was just off to me. Even the Sherlock Holmes films seemed more grounded than this one does. None of the actors are truly able to save this film, and a few people actually left in the middle of my showing. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever watched, but Ritchie’s made better films than this.

Granted, I didn’t really walk in with a lot of expectations. The film had it’s release date changed, being sandwiched right between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the week before and Alien: Covenant the week after. It really didn’t have a chance, though I thought maybe it could at least hold the weekend. On the other hand, the movie did feel like a lot of the sword and sorcery films I grew up with in the ‘80s, such as Hawk The Slayer, Beastmaster, Ridley Scott’s Legend, The Sword & the Sorcerer, hell, even Barbarian Queen. In that sense, I might say that the film holds up. If you’re not trying to compare it with anything Arthur/Camelot related, you may actually enjoy it.

Legend of the Sword is the story of Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), who needs to save his land from the evil King Vortigern (Jude Law) after reclaiming the great sword Excalibur. I could say more, but I’d give too much away. He’s aided by his friends, Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen), along with a Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) that takes the place of Merlin, who’s absent here. Everyone’s performances are okay, particularly Law and Gillen, who chew up any scene they’re in. Hunnam does just as good with what he’s given, but his Arthur is a bit of an ass at the start. Everyone seems to enjoy what they’re doing here. Even David Beckham gets a moment as a henchman. Of them, the only character I really cared about was Goosefat Bill. Aiden Gillen can play the hero, and play one well.

To his credit, Guy Ritchie’s direction is as quick and sharp as it ever was. When there’s action, it’s fast and fluid. You’ve got great running sequences, and giant CGI animals. Even the swordplay is fun, particularly when Excalibur is involved (those are really the best parts). It’s stylish, and looks awesome in some scenes. The dialogue is rapid, with quick cuts along whole segments. It’s what we’ve come to know and expect from Guy Ritchie. Though it worked well for his modern crime films, it come across as being a little disjointed here. I was hoping for King Arthur, not Underworld Boss Arthur who could be Robin Hood, along with his would be Merry Men of Sherwood Forest.

While I’m not saying that every element of the Arthur tale needed to be expanded upon, Legend of the Sword suffers from a few jump cuts that say “Don’t worry about all of this info, just know we reached point B from point A.” It’s efficient, but also turns the entire tale into a Cliffs Notes / Wikipedia summary. The film moves that quick. The film is peppered with these abbreviations that’s supposed to move the narrative along, but does this so fast that you almost have a tough time believing this movie was actually 2 hours long. I’m not asking for Hamlet, but at least allow your characters to flourish or grow or gain something about them that’s endearing. I’ll also admit to having a short attention span, it’s not that short that it requires quick-cut bursts to keep me enthralled.

Overall, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was a miss for me. If you have to catch it, you may want to wait for the VOD edition.

Horror Film Review: Annabelle (dir by John R. Leonetti)


Annabelle

Remember Annabelle, the tres creepy doll from The Conjuring?

Well, she’s back and she’s starring in a film of her very own!  Annabelle is the first horror film to be given a wide release this October and, judging from the commercials, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. are really hoping that you’ll remember just how scary and effective The Conjuring was when it comes time to decide whether you want to see Annabelle or Gone Girl this weekend.

Of course, Annabelle actually have very little do with The Conjuring.  Though Father Perez, the token concerned priest played by Tony Amendola, mentions Ed and Lorraine Warren, neither one of them actually appears in the film.  Neither do any of the other characters or ghosts from The Conjuring.  The only link between the two films is that doll.

Taking place in 1969, Annabelle is an origin story of sorts.  Doctor John Gordon (Ward Horton) buys a doll for his pregnant wife, Mia (Annabelle Wallis).  The doll looks evil from the minute that Mia unwraps it but, according to the film, it was actually harmless until a psychotic hippie girl (Tree O’Toole) bled on it.  That blood seeped into the doll’s eye and the next thing you know…

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No,  I’m not going to spoil it for you.  In fact, it’s really not necessary for me to spoil it for you because I imagine you can probably guess everything that’s going to happen.  If you’ve ever seen a haunted house film, you know exactly what’s going to happen when John goes to work and Mia gets left in the house alone.  If you’ve ever seen a demonic possession film, you can guess what’s going to happen when Mia happens to stumble across the occult book store next door.  And, if you’ve ever seen any film, you can guess that the book store is managed by a sassy mystic played by Alfre Woodard.

That’s right!  There’s nothing surprising about Annabelle!

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Horror films are unique in that they often times actually benefit from being so predictable.  You watch in dread because you know that something terrible is going to happen even though the characters in the film do not.  You know enough to yell, “Don’t open that door!” but the characters in the film don’t.  That’s exactly what makes a film like Annabelle scary.

The Conjuring, I thought, was not only a great horror film but it was also one of the best films of 2013.  That’s because, along with being a scary movie, The Conjuring also dealt quite intelligently with very real issues of faith and family.  The Conjuring was fun to watch because it was scary but it stayed with you because it was full of subtext.  Annabelle, on the other hand, is a film without subtext.  Everything important about Annabelle can be found right on the surface.

Annabelle is a film that exists solely to scare you and how much you enjoy it will probably depend on how much you enjoy  horror films to begin with.  The shock scenes are handled well, with an emphasis on sudden noise on the soundtrack and intimidating shadows appearing in the background.  Everything that distinguished The Conjuring — the attention to detail, the lively performances, and the imaginative plotting — has been pushed to the side to make room for the next scare.

As a result, Annabelle is one of those films that makes you jump while you’re watching it but doesn’t stick around in your head afterwards.  If you’re a fan of the horror genre and like a good scare, you’ll probably find something to enjoy in Annabelle.  (It’s no Devil’s Due but it’s still better than the latest Paranormal Activity film.)  If you’re not a horror fan — well, then you probably weren’t planning on seeing Annabelle in the first place.

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